The Number Two Dog

The Number Two Dog

By Paul Johnston

Most one-dog owners at one time or another will ponder the thought of getting a second dog. There are many reasons for doing so. Company for the number one dog is the most common answer, while many would agree two is twice as fun.

Are you ready?

You are the proud parent of one very wonderful dog. In fact, so happy you are ready to extend the family! Before heading out on your search for number two there are a few questions you need to ask first.

Is your dog bored?

Boredom in dogs is a common problem for obtaining a second mate. Our canine friends are pack animals. Just like humans, they need company, socialising, mental and physical stimulation and all the care and treatment required to keep them happy and healthy.

A bored dog will develop bad habits such as digging, barking, escaping and aggression. If you are worried that your dog is bored, the first step is to ensure that you are providing enough environmental richness. This can include appropriately placed ‘home-alone’ toys, plenty of exercise and time together for mental stimulation such as training and socialising. If your dog is displaying aggression, do not rush out and get another dog as a companion.

Pack problems

Unlike humans, dogs live by the golden rule of ‘pack structure’. This is a canine version of a pecking order, and it is the core of their daily life. As humans we tend to treat our dogs as ‘human mates’, but what the dog really wants is a leader. If your dog respects you as the leader of its pack (i.e. it comes when you call, is non aggressive to adults and children) and it is well socialised, then introducing another dog will not be as problematic.

The pecking order

Some dogs are naturally dominant, while others are obviously submissive. Identifying your dog’s type is important, because as soon as you introduce another dog into the home ‘pack’ you are going to change it’s life forever.

The current dog is thus far number one in the dog pecking order of your household, but it should already know that you, the pack leader, comes first. You eat first, when you walk down the hallway the dog doesn’t block your path, and it looks to you for direction and instruction. So what happens when a new dog arrives?

Selecting the right number two

The secret to selecting the right number two is to really know your number one dog. This also means putting yourself in their ‘paws’. For example, if your number one dog is old, then it will feel threatened, and probably annoyed, with a young pup romping into its established existence. The household, especially children, will delight in the new recruit and the shift of adoration will put your existing animal into a position of unknown territory.

While it may seem insensitive to humans, dogs do not expect to be treated as equals. They live by their pack rules. When you have two dogs, or more, you need to identify which dog is acting as the pack leader, remembering that the structure can change. The pack leader should be recognised as such and you may have to adapt your habits to meet this need. The leader of the pack is usually fed first and greeted first when you arrive home, for example. The consequences of not acknowledging the pack leader, or worse, repeatedly acknowledging a submissive dog first, will lead to bickering and fighting amongst the dogs.

The right mix

Introduce the dogs to each other slowly and on neutral grounds. Once back home, supervise mealtime and follow this with a game. This will help to establish rewards for good behaviour. Once the dogs become friends it is only a matter of time before they sort out their pack differences. They will enjoy the company of each other and you really will have twice the fun!

For lots of easy to read articles, full of useful information that is sure to help you out with your pet or pets, go to While you are there sign up for the PET NEWS email newsletter – it is FREE and packed with handy tips for pet owners.

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